The episode opens with Michael Burnham musing philosophically about space over black-and-white images of planets. Color comes in and Burnham recalls an African folklore tale about a girl who tossed the stars into the sky. A secret, a message was hidden within those stars, and only someone whose heart is open to the message can uncover the secret.
In flashback, Sarek brings Michael Burnham to his home Vulcan for the first time. She meets Amanda Grayson for the first time. Amanda reaches out to take Michael’s hand, but Michael pulls back. Spock looks down on the scene from the house’s second floor. Amanda offers to introduce Michael to Spock.
In voiceover, Michael says she’s not sure if she’s ready to understand the story about the girl and the stars.
Sarek tries to introduce Michael to Spock. Spock is drawing on a computer device. He throws his drawings into the air where they form a holographic, roaring, serpent-like creature. Michael offers her hand in greeting, but Spock just slams the door in her face.
Burnham snaps back to the present day. Discovery is right where she was last season, attempting to respond to a distress call from the Enterprise. Pike requests to come aboard with a tactical officer and a science officer. Saru tells Burnham to join him in welcoming the party from the Enterprise.
On their way to the transporter room, Saru and Burnham discuss her relationship to the Enterprise’s science officer. Burnham asks Saru if he has siblings. He tells her about a sister, saying there’s “terrain” between them that he fears they cannot navigate. Burnham expresses a similar situation exists between her and Spock.
Pike and his officers beam aboard. Burnham is surprised that Spock is not the science officer who came with Pike. Pike tells Saru he’s there to take control of Discovery for an emergency mission. Seven signals suddenly popped up throughout the galaxy then disappears. They only managed to get a lock on one, but haven’t been able to engage with any of them in a meaningful way. Pike has heard about Burnham from Spock.
Saru refuses to turn over command of Discovery to Pike until he’s gone through all of the necessary security checks put in place during the war with the Klingons. Tilly authenticates Pike’s DNA. Pike makes an introductory speech to the Discovery bridge crew, ensuring them that he is not Lorca. Pike takes command and gives the order to head towards the location of the mysterious signal.
Stamets is in his lab playing watching an old message from Dr. Culber. Tilly interrupts him. With the spore drive inactive, the engine room will be converted back to a traditional engineering space. Tilly tells Stamets she’s found new lab space for him, but Stamets says he’s leaving Starfleet to take a teaching position at the Vulcan Science Academy. Tilly tries to talk him out of it, but his mind is made up.
In her quarters, Burnham reads Alice in Wonderland and remembers Amanda Grayson reading aloud to her when she was s child. Amanda promised to bring Michael to Earth one day. Spock listened in.
She’s interrupted by Sarek coming to her door. He’s leaving to join a task force studying the signals. He’s already reached out to High Chancellor L’Rell and confirmed that the Klingons are as in the dark about the signals as Starfleet is. They both wonder why Spock didn’t come aboard Discovery, both confirming it has been years since either of them has spoken to Spock. Burnham asks Sarek what it is he hoped Spock would learn from her. Sarek tells her it was empathy, something he’d need in order to interact with humans and that he couldn’t get from his mother because he viewed her with such reverence. Sarek admits he doesn’t think he was successful, that Spock never seemed to fully accept Michael as a sibling. Michael says he may have accepted her for a time, and that empathy is very real for Spock.
Pike asks for a roll call from Discovery’s bridge crew. They drop out of work at the signal’s coordinates and find they’ve flown directly into the path of an interstellar asteroid. There’s no sign of the signal. Strangely, the asteroid has an atmosphere despite not being large enough to generate a gravity field. Discovery tries to move in closer, but the ship and the asteroid repel each other like similarly-charged magnets.
Burnham discovers a Starfleet medical frigate, the USS Hiawatha, on the asteroid. It was thought lost months ago during the war. Pike gives the order to prep a landing and asks for an idea about how to get to the asteroid to search for survivors before the asteroid is consumed by a pulsar. After a tense moment, Burnham provides Pike with a solution.
Tilly tells Burnham about Stamets leaving. She also says the spores reacted to the asteroid in a way she hasn’t seen since the tardigrade. She asks Michael to bring back a sample.
Burnham, Pike, science officer Connelly, and tactical officer Nahn suit up and get into pods designed for use in gravitational environments like the one they’re about to go into. Burnham takes the lead and the other pods follow her into the asteroid field.
The gravitational field messes with the pods’ navigation, so the team takes manual control. Burnham warns Connelley that his field is too wide. He chooses to ignore her and dies when a chunk of asteroid crashes into his pod.
Pike’s pod is damaged and his emergency helmet fails to seal. The Discovery crew calculates a trajectory Pike to eject and for Burnham to do the same and catch Pike, flinging them towards the asteroid and using suit thrusters to slow themselves down before impact. It is risky, but they pull it off.
The Hiawatha comes into view. They head to the crash site and are greeted by drones built with repurposed Starfleet tech. The asteroid shakes and a voice tells them to follow the drones. The voice belongs to Cmdr. Jet Reno, an engineer. She greets them in the makeshift sickbay she’s set up on the asteroid to keep the surviving patients and crew from the Hiawatha alive. She’s been on the asteroid for months. She didn’t know the war was over.
The group starts working on a plan to get them and Reno’s patients off the asteroid. They set up an enhancement field to back up the Hiawatha’s transporter pad. Reno tells Pike that she doesn’t know anything about the signal that brought them there.
Discovery takes some damage after colliding with asteroid debris, but they manage to get the first wave of patients aboard the ship. Just before making the final transport, something in the transporter system blows. Burnham fixes it, but is left behind when the rest of the group is transported away. She makes a run for it as the asteroid continues to shakes, causing the Hiawatha to sink and collapse around her.
Burnham is knocked unconscious by the debris. When she wakes up she has burning shrapnel sticking out of her leg. She screams. Then she sees the silhouette of a mysterious figure, the so-called “red angel.” She loses sight of it when Pike returns to rescue her. Burnham grabs a sample of the asteroid for Tilly, but it falls from her hand when she’s transported away.
In sickbay, Burnham tells Tilly about the sample. That means the asteroid is not fully made of baryonic matter. This could be a huge scientific discovery. Burnham has already come up with a plan to retrieve a sample before the pulsar destroys it. Tilly sets about putting the plan into motion, and Stamets joins her to help out.
With his mission complete, Pike allows Saru to resume command of Discovery for the attempt to capture the asteroid sample. Discovery moves into position then goes to full stop. An asteroid flies into Discovery’s shuttle bay and is caught in an artificial gravity field set up by Tilly and her team.
Later, Pike takes command of Discovery again. The Enterprise is badly damaged and will take time to repair, but they must determine the origin and intent of the red signals. He comments on Lorca’s Spartan ready room. He leaves behind a fortune he found on the ground that reads, “Not every cage is a prison, not every loss eternal.”0comments
Burnham tells Pike that she’s the reason she and Spock don’t have a relationship. She requests to go to Enterprise and see Spock. Pike tells her Spock isn’t there; he took leave. Missing the war took a toll on Enterprise’s crew, including Pike and Spock. Pike recalls Spock asking him, “What is the logic in staying away if there’s nothing left to come back to?” Pike recalls something about Spock changing a few months ago as if he had found a question he couldn’t find the answer to. He asked for leave, and Pike granted it. Burnham still wants to go to Enterprise. Pike tells her she should go.
Burnham enters Spock’s quarters aboard the Enterprise. She accesses Spock’s last personal log. He talks about how he had nightmares as a child. His mother taught him to draw his nightmares to render them powerless. He says the nightmares have returned. The same vision over and over. He says he now understands its meaning and where it must lead him. He’s encoded it in this audio file, knowing it may be his last entry. Burnham